It's a tightrope act, being a parent. You have to act like something actually separates you from your children — something more than proven reproductive capacity. In tonight's episode, the adults try to figure out how to act like adults, and the children suspect that their second-class status isn't based on a real behavioral gap.
Of the three situations, it's Jay's that I understood best. A big part of being an adult is seeing through the shiny things that mesmerize kids. Jay thinks Javier, Manny's biological father, is all talk with his speedboats and pirates and former minor league baseball careers, and he doesn't want Manny to be seduced and then disappointed. But who wouldn't fall for Benjamin Bratt? Heck, I remember falling pretty hard for him back when he first appeared on Law And Order … but we're not talking about me.
Second in order of hitting me where I live: Mitchell and Cameron trying to Ferberize Lily. Oh, the books I read and the arguments I had with myself about how to transition my kids to self-sufficient sleeping. (We "parent-powered" 'em, following the dictates of this book recommended by my younger brother.) Parenting means not having any idea whether to follow your instincts or some program or another.
And then there was Phil's kidney stone, a dramatic situation that ended up giving Phil power not just as the person in pain and under the knife, but as the person abandoned briefly by his wife so she could impress the hot firemen with cleavage and high heels. … Nope, can't identify with that one, at least not yet. But here's what I think. That "golden ticket" Phil thinks he can hold onto for years? No way that's going to appreciate in value the way he thinks. You can't pipe up 20 years later with some sob story about the hot firemen. I'd laugh him out of the house.
You know, as much as we've all complained about the obligatory "everybody gets together and has a Wonder Years moment at the end of the episode" trope, I missed it this week. Everybody stayed separate, and I needed something more. Maybe it's just because I do feel like a fraud as an adult a lot of the time. I could have used a little reassurance that we adults have something on the ball. Instead I got Jay waiting on the curb, just like Manny did when Javier failed to pick him up a few weeks ago. It hits a little too close to home, I won't lie to you.
- Irritating parental statements: "That's too much cologne"; "that's how girls end up dead"; "don't talk black to me"; "it's inappropriate because she's your teacher."
- That Water Weasel looks like a lot more fun when you're not putting it in your pants."
- Jay thought he was really doing his family a favor by taking them to Benihana, where "they've got a chef who can flip a shrimp into his own hat," and grumbles when Javier hijacks the dinner, "I could be sitting grillside watching a guy build an onion volcano."
- Cameron's comfort regimen for Lily includes watching Brian DePalma's controversial masterpiece Scarface.
- Funniest recurring joke of the night: Phil assuring his kids he'll be okay, his kids replying that they know he'll be okay, and Phil retorting "No, we don't know that, it's a miracle I'm standing up."
- Under the pressure of Phil's impending hospitalization, Luke confesses to breaking the coffee table — the one he swore he didn't break, and blamed Esmerelda for, and got her fired, and she stole a turkey at Thanksgiving, and got deported.
- Times Phil has been scared: When he walked through the spider web, and when he was playing with the Ouija board and the wind blew the door shut. (Phil: "That was no wind — we brought something forth.")
- Second time in two nights someone has either tried or threatened to sweep the leg on an ABC sitcom. (See last night's Better Off Ted.)
- "The hardest part is when people forget their card, because then I look like the idiot."